A big warm welcome to composer, Katie Tarrant, joining us here at The Sound Architect! For more about Katie, check out the About page :)! Meanwhile read her debut article, a review of Divinity Original Sin Enhanced Edition!
Review by Katie Tarrant
Edited by Sam Hughes
Developer: Larian Studios/Focus Home Interactive
Composer: Kirill Pokrovsky
Sound Designer: Felix Zirwes/Alex Otterlei
Reviewed on: Xbox One
With a kick starter that launched in March 2013, Divinity: Original Sin was a game for which Larian Studios had high expectations, but not enough budget to do those expectations justice. Little did they anticipate raising nearly $1 million dollars and developing a fan base so passionate and insistent on bringing this fantasy single and multiplayer role-playing game to life. But, in this day and age where MMORPG’s are such a craved and vastly appreciated facet of the gaming industry, it is hard for one to expect anything less.
Following its original release in June 2014, Divinity: Original Sin now bears its own Enhanced Edition, made available on the Xbox One and PS4 as of October 27 2015. The new release comes bearing a range of new features, including split screen co-op, new sound effects, AI improvements, a crafting system, journal and map updates, new difficulty levels, additional team and enemy skill sets and much more. The soundtrack, it seems, has stayed much the same, which may both be to its excellence and also as a nod of respect to its composer, Kirill Pokrovsky, who sadly passed away this year.
From its immediate introduction, Pokrovsky has created a haunting soundscape in which Divinity: Original Sin takes places. The majority of the soundtrack is simple by nature, featuring sustained string layers and delicate harmonies that are weaved throughout, but that is what makes it such a work of art. Pokrovsky was one of few composers to appreciate that less is sometimes more and has managed to craft a rich and beautiful sound out of a very small palate of instruments. At no point does the soundtrack feel cognitively demanding and, as a result, it becomes seamlessly bound with the gameplay and leads to a perfectly fluid gaming experience. Use of heavy reverb makes for a very ominous air and really broadens the atmosphere, making each location feel darker and vaster than the visuals suggest on their own. The sound effects too are all pockets of good craftsmanship and go the extra mile to ensuring sonic completion. When in general exploration gameplay, the music and sound design seem to play off of one another. In locations like caves and tombs, ambience is created through low rumbles and echoes alongside small musical flairs, such as subtle percussion or tremolo violins veer in and out. This again reinforces how clever manipulation of small sounds can have a much greater effect than one might originally think. Favourites include the sound design for combat initiation, spell casting and small sounds for things like announcing the next turn in battle.
With the original Divinity having little dialogue, it was a pleasant surprise for fans to discover that the Enhanced Edition will be coming with hours of new and remastered dialogue to boot. Every character in the game is now voiced and this brings a huge sense of realism and authenticity to your surroundings. Even small chit-chat between your main characters and also the AI takes place which provides a nice touch when navigating each location. The individual AI you encounter each possess their own unique dialogue and personality to boot; something which is essential to help you feel immersed in a virtual world.
Initially the sound came across as being a bit unbalanced, with some sound effects appearing a little too loudly and this naturally disturbing the game’s otherwise stunning atmosphere. However, this seems to balance out after I was making my way through the first few levels. The implementation, on the other hand, could be a little stronger. I found the music to be sometimes stopping completely when combat was about to commence, and also often finishing before the battle was over; all of which interrupted my immersion in the gameplay and prevented the soundscape from truly coming together.
Overall, Larian Studios have done a fantastic job at redeveloping this game for their Enhanced Edition, and it has been wonderful to witness the extent to which they have gone to satisfy all of the requests and issues raised by their devoted fan base. Divinity presents smooth effortless gameplay and fantastic controller adaptability. Now couch co-op has been introduced, it’s hard to see how the original Divinity did without it as it’s the perfect game to play split-screen with friends. If you haven’t tried it yet, I strongly recommend you pick up a copy. It’s a captivating fantasy world that this team have done so well to create, and it is well worth exploring.
The Sound Architect